Comcast starting this year plans to roll out 100-Megabit-per-second downstream service for residential customers -- twice its fastest Internet tier today.
Currently, Comcast has deployed DOCSIS 3.0, the next-generation cable modem technology, to more than 75% of its nationwide footprint representing some 38 million homes and business premises. The MSO's Extreme 50 tier offers up to 50 Mbps downstream in those markets.
In the next 12 to 18 months, Comcast anticipates being able to offer 100-Mbps Internet service to many, if not all, of those customers, said Cathy Avgiris, senior vice president and general manager of communications and data services. The company is the biggest broadband provider in the U.S., with 15.9 million high-speed subscribers as of the end of 2009.
"We're looking to introduce a residential service at 100-Meg speeds," said Avgiris, who recently was promoted to oversee Comcast's broadband as well as voice and wireless services. "For a customer who wants to take advantage of that, we'll offer that to them."
Cablevision Systems, for one, already offers a 101-Mbps downstream service to its New York-area residential customers, and Mediacom Communications has debuted 105-Mbps broadband in two small markets.
Comcast is proceeding with its 100-Mbps plans as the Federal Communications Commission, as part of the National Broadband Plan released this week, has set a target for the industry to provide 100 million consumers "affordable access" to 100 Mbps downloads and 50 Mbps uploads by 2020.
FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell, in comments Tuesday, pointed out that the cable industry already is well on its way to delivering 100-Mbps service to more than 104 million U.S. homes in the next few years. In fact, the CableLabs specification for DOCSIS 3.0 requires equipment to be capable of delivering at least 160 Mbps downstream, by bonding four 6-MHz RF channels together.
Avgiris declined to comment specifically on the FCC's National Broadband Plan, which also aims to make broadband more ubiquitous and affordable. Asked about broadband pricing, she said, "All of our service tiers are priced competitively and I think the market dictates that... there are a lot of choices for customers."
The cable company has not announced specific pricing or markets where the 100-Mbps residential service will become available first.
Last fall Comcast introduced a 100-Mbps downstream / 15-Mbps upstream business service in Minneapolis/St. Paul, priced at $369.95 per month, aimed at winning share from telephone companies' commercial services.
Meanwhile, whereas Comcast had previously expected to deploy DOCSIS 3.0 to 100% of its footprint by the end of 2010, Avgiris said it may be 2011 until the remaining 25% of the operator's systems are upgraded. "We will do it as aggressively as we can... but certainly by the end of this year I don't think there will be a major market that will not have DOCSIS 3.0," she said.
As for what kinds of consumers would be interested in 100-Mbps pipes, Avgiris said a growing number of customers are interested in downloading HD movies over the Internet and that the very high-speed service would appeal to online gamers who need low-latency connections.
"It's our responsibility as a leader -- and as the nation's No . 1 ISP -- to stay ahead of the demand curve," she said.
Added Avgiris, "When we first introduced high-speed Internet, it was a 1-and-a-half Megabit service. Then we took it took it 3 -- and people said, ‘What am I going to do with 3 Megabits?'"